These are notes from the time that I am spending in UK under the New North South Network / Liverpool Biennale Training Program being held in partnership with the Karachi Biennale, which is to be held later this year.
I must admit that my second day in Manchester, while to many, may seem like a boring feat, for me it remained a truly spectacular experience.
My day started early enough since I wanted to get to the Manchester Cathedral for the morning service, which was scheduled to begin at 10:30. So I was out the door of my hotel by 9:45, and like a typical Sunday morning, the city was deserted enough and the sun shone beautifully down upon us all. Ah, life is good!
I made my way first to the Town Hall in Albert Square, and what a spectacular sight that was. I have always been in love with Public Squares and as I sat there, enjoying my morning coffee, I have to admit, I feel in love with the city right then and there.
Apparently there is a Sculpture Cafe in there, and I have to make my way to that soon enough.
There was also another great thing about the Sqaure, which I think is common to all UK cities, and that is the memorials. I am simply in love with how they continue to honor men and women who have contributed and served their country in one form of the other. The Sqaure had quite a few of those.
Also did I mention that when the clock struck 10, the sound of bells from all over Manchester were heard and was one divine experience to have? It was divine experience to have.
Next stop, was the St. Ann Church, it was a beautiful 18th century structure – and thought it doesn’t compare in size with the Cathedral, it has its own charm and history that simply can’t be missed. Not to mention, this will be one of the two contributions that I will see that day which have been established by the hard work and sheer determination of women.
Up next – The Manchester Cathedral. Now I would say that this wasn’t the first time that I have lied to get into a Church. I really wanted to hear the Oxford Spezzati Choir, so when they asked me if I would like to attend the service I hurriedly said yes. This Sunday marked “The Holy Eucharist” so I must say that I am glad that I got the chance to attend it and see the whole experience. It is quite amazing what we can learn from the Churches and how they are connecting with the communities, in all forms and ways. Something also needs to be said about the Sermon that the Dean gave and then the prayer that was led by the Minister. Both of them touched upon how communities and citizens need to come together to reject the growing radicalism in the shape of Far-right groups, and how “cautious diplomacy” needs to be the order of the day. There was also a moment when all had to share a symbol of peace and I had no idea what that was – it turned out to be a simple handshake! It was beautiful in its simplicity.
I got the chance to speak to the Dean afterwards, who has been to Pakistan and is in love with Lahori food, and he also talked about how these elements are taking hold in Pakistan itself.
And kudos to the Choir – they were brilliant. I have always loved how they have the power to make the walls even come alive.
It is interesting how the Cathedrals are doing so much to get more in touch with their communities – from talking about acceptance of all humans, sexuality, politics to catering to theaters for children and partnering with Social projects. ‘Relevance’ it will turn out was the theme of the day.
My next stop was to be Jon Rylands Library, but as I walking towards it, I stumbled upon these two wonderful shops – ‘PaperChase’ and ‘Waterstones’. If there is ever a reason to be a Billionaire, these two are it baby!
After these two masochist experiences, I was finally at the John Rylands Library – established by the Mrs Enriqueta Ryland in memory of her loving husband John Ryland, a textile manufacturer (if you look at the lights in the library they are all designed as cotton plants). My primary interest was the see the exhibition called “The Life of Objects”.
The exhibition is genius owning to its sheer simplicity of concept. Again, in my opinion, it does come down to making art and artifacts more relevant to our lives, and finding those common threads that all of us can grasp on to. Not to mention, the building in itself is something to go and ogle at! The Historic Reading rooms are open to public and one can just stare at the shelf after shelf of these titles dating back to the 14th and 15th century when the printing press didn’t exist.
Sigh, this is what heaven would be like, if you throw in Waterstone and Paperchase in the mix.
There was another thing which was very interesting at both the Library and the Cathedral – the activities that they had for the children. Both of them had these wonderful treasure hunts for kids really allowing them to engross themselves in the history of the buildings.
Last stop of the day before I collapsed – The People’s History Museum. Okay so I have to admit, I wasn’t really that excited about it, since the website of the museum made it sound really boring. But was I wrong! The Museum is beyond words – the exhibits were so thoroughly researched and extremely interactive.
There were a couple of exhibitions that were on – one about the LGBTQ history, the other on “British Communism’s Culture War” and then there was the permanent exhibit about the history of democracy in Britain. TO truly do justice to the exhibit, you should give it a good 3 hours. A must go place.
Last stop of the day was dinner with my brilliant Aunt at this Lebanese place called the Raoshi. And that’s a Day!